I was reading an answer to one of the questions asked on Meta - a question I think needs revisiting.

The answer states the following:

Ask 10 people what "Worldbuilding" is, and you'll get 11 different answers. For some it will be analyzing the effects of magic on world economy, for others designing the weather system for planet in a particular orbit.

And you know what? None of them would be wrong. Worldbuilding truly is an incredibly broad topic, from creature design, to linguistics, and much, much more.


Worldbuilding.com, is part of the Stack Exchange family of sites. This implies certain standards as far as the reusability of the questions, and answers are concerned.

I quite often see the phrase "your question is not a good fit for this site."

However, this answer leads me to think, is World Building a good fit for Stack Exchange?

Should the rules of this site reflect the rigorous standards of Stack Exchange, or should the rules reflect the more broad term of World Building?

For instance, allowing users to mark multiple answers as correct would be a good start. This would allow this site to be more subjective - and World Building is inherently subjective.

Plenty of people will be coming here with a correct idea of what World Building is, only to get their question downvoted or closed because it doesn't align with the restrictive set of rules this site uses. It seems unfair to me to punish users simply because this World Building site is part of Stack Exchange. Instead of expecting the users to adhere to restrictive rules, shouldn't we be petitioning Stack Exchange to give us more flexible tools?

Do you think that the subject of World Building works well on a site that uses a restrictive question-and-single-correct-answer format? And beyond imposing more rules on the users, what can be done to improve this situation?


5 Answers 5


Based on all of the meta questions I have read and the many issues I have seen in chat and closed questions, I am leaning towards no. My reasoning is pretty much what other people here and on other questions have posted. Stack Exchange Q&A or any Q&A website really (excluding interview type ones) work best when there is one or maybe two ideal answers. Worldbuilding by its very nature is not only very broad but subjective so the community determining what is a good answer can often be difficult or even controversial.

Another issue is that this place seemed to have lost its direction. It used to be more casual and cooperative in enhancing story ideas. I would have loved to be a member of this place 6 years ago. Now I just see a lot more shooting down ideas or rules-lawyering. Pretty much the only questions you see nowadays are either better fits for other stackexchanges (principally the physics/history ones) or could arguably be closed for being story/opinion-based.

Speaking of rules, they badly need an update. The community standards of this place has changed but the rules themselves have been mostly unchanged since 2018. As a result, even new contributors who read the rules and other upvoted questions get their threads downvoted and closed; they didn't understand the unspoken rules that the most senior members abide by. Unwritten rules shouldn't exist on the Internet. I'm fairly certain that if all the sample questions from the help center were deleted and resubmitted, most of them would be downvoted and closed.

The final thing I will say is that the detail standards of this stackexchange isn't conducive to helping the most amount of people. Obviously, answerers need context for your story, especially since they can't research your story in your head independently, but an overly precise question won't help a lot of people. This is true in stackoverflow but it is an even larger issue with worldbuilding since people are writing their own stories instead of reading textbooks on the same topics. If a user does make some precise questions but asks a few of them in order to get information for their world, they are accused of "mindless social fun" and future topics about it are downvoted/closed.

So overall, Stack Exchange is not a good home for worldbuilding. Stack Exchange is best for issues like hard sciences and mathematics where there is an objectively true or false answer. Stack Exchange is also a good home for topics like Law or Religion or History where this is generally precise writing to answer an inquiry. Worldbuilding is too broad to have firm but fair evaluation and moderation. As a result, many users feel this place is firm and unfair instead. Worldbuilding is much more streamlined and cooperative on Reddit and Quora as opposed to this place; although those websites have their own issues.

If the rules and guidelines were updated, that would fix many issues. But before that happens, this community has to reform itself and decide whether it wants to be either a generalist science Stackexchange or community writing Stackexchange.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Another issue is that this place seemed to have lost its direction. It used to be more casual and cooperative in enhancing story ideas. I would have loved to be a member of this place 6 years ago. Now I just see a lot more shooting down ideas or rules-lawyering" - This has been my experience too. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmery The question which will help the most now is : what can be done to improve this experience back to what it was 6 years ago ^^? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena And the obvious answer to that is this site needs new or different moderation - however in my experience the moderators think that they are doing the right thing, and any suggestion that they are not is met with an attitude of "well this is how we do things here" - this is my experience anyway - perhaps they would listen more to someone else. It's a shame, I used to love this site... $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ the answer is no $\endgroup$
    – user100394
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmery Well, I'm reading you with attention. The only feedback I had personally received recently is that I wasn't following the rules. I'd advise just creating a chatroom for that as this is outside this answer's topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena With all the hoops I've been made to jump through in the past year or so just to put a question up on here, combined with the downvotes this question got, and the general response of the mods here (especially one of them) - Honestly, right now I am too disheartened to do much more about this. Ultimately, there needs to be a dialog with the admins at SE to alter the way this particular site works for the benefit of everyone, but those involved seem too entrenched in their views to want to change anything. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with much of what you said but disagree with the conclusion. What's not a good fit for Stack Exchange are the people doing the rules lawyering here. If you actually go read the Stack Exchange site description, rules, etc, it's very friendly and open, and most of what people here are calling "rules" are literally just suggestions. e.g. there is literally no rule against brainstorming. There is a suggestion that it "might" not be suitable, but my takeaway is that it's probably fine as long as the topic is narrow. But yeah, World Building even 2 years ago is wildly different than today. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Jimmery Note for clarity: you said "moderators" but in Stack Exchange parlance, that's a very small group of people, mostly not responsible for the changes here (that I can see). e.g. L.Dutch is a moderator. I can vote-to-close which is kind of a moderator action but I'm not a moderator. The overwhelming majority of wrecking-ball action is not coming from "moderators", but rather, from community members. Why that has shifted so dramatically over the last 1-2 years, I don't know, and never get a clear answer on. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB Perhaps these community member are from other SE sites and that don't necessarily understand the differences that World Building should have. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB probably the reason for the shift is just that a few specific users have become active in using the close vote function. Stack Exchange is set up so it only takes a small number of users to close a question, which makes it easy for a few users to shut down all questions of a certain type. This tends to get mistaken for a consensus that they are off topic, and then that becomes the rule. To some extent I think SE is designed this way on purpose, though I never really understood why. I've seen it have strong negative effects on other communities as well, once they reach a certain size. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ @N.Virgo Yeah that's my guess too. There was no actual problem 2 years ago that needed to be solved. The change is, therefore, unnecessary. I tend to think of it as "the Reddit problem". Community self-policing can so easily turn toxic to the community, but then, asking a few qualified, dedicated mods to do all the work (for free) is asking too much too. A bit of a conundrum. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 14:29

We're so far outside SE's sweetspot I wonder if we were a test case

Stack Exchange, as designed for and by its flagship Stack, Stack Overflow, is based on a single concept that's almost incompatible with any creative or imaginative effort:

There is only one best answer.

You suggested that we allow multiple answers to be marked correct. That very idea represents the core of the problem. How we use Stack Exchange is ruled over entirely by our Stack Exchange Overlords. We, the users of Worldbuilding, have no ability whatsoever to make a change to how the software works.

In fact, we have only a bare minimum of ability to change how the Help Center reads. And even less influence over the VTC reasons.

In fact, if you don't accept the idea that we can create policies here in Meta, then the reality you're questioning is that the people who wrote and own this software control the proverbial 99% of how their software is used.

Unfortunately, one best answer is something we have trouble with

A sizable number of questions that come to this site can't have a single best answer. Not won't. Can't. The community has been debating the idea of list answers, fishing-for-ideas questions, brainstorming, etc. almost since the day the site came out of Area 51. It's obviously true that some latitude should be made for creativity and imagination.

Except for the reality that we don't control most of the rules.

We could choose to ignore them, but here's the rub, they exist. Which means we can expend all our energy telling people to ignore the rules or expend the very same amount of energy telling people to obey the rules. Because matter what we do, there are the rules, and there will always be people who want to obey them and those who want to ignore them.

Kinda sounds like real life....

But, if you ignore all the collateral damage, there is value here

And there is collateral damage. New users rarely read the rules before playing and no matter how politely, kindly, or lovingly you try to explain why they can't ask the question they are, they're going to take critical feedback, down votes, and closure personally.

But if people try, what the'll discover is this whacky stack trying to march to the tune of people we've never met or seen requires them to really think through what their problem is.

Maybe that's ruthless, but the site can work for creative and imaginative worlbuilding if you're willing to embrace the rules.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Interpersonal Skills is another exchange that pushes the boundaries of the SE model, but it does so in a more focused way. Similar to us they struggle with people assuming they know what makes an appropriate question. For them the big ones are interpersonal vs intrapersonal skills, and that they're not an advice site. For us it's worldbuilding vs storybuilding and that we're not a brainstorming site. I think both sites could benefit from working to improve new user education, and to make existing policies clearer in the help center $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 14:43

TLDR: We're not, but we try to make it work

We're an one of the more out-there sites trying to fit into the Stack Exchange network. When this site was proposed we went through a growing period where we attempted to figure out how to make such a broad and subjective topic work within the Stack Exchange model. Part of our criteria for being created was to show that we could support questions that fit the Stack Exchange model. By design many questions that are about worldbuilding will not be appropriate for this site.

This is the case for any exchange, about any topic. There are questions about programming that aren't appropriate for Stack Overflow. This is by design. Besides network effects the distinguishing element of Stack Exchange from other QA sites is the structure they impose on questions. This structure forms the core of the SE design philosophy, and they attribute their success, to this focused structure.

They choose to build a site with close voting as something automatically earned by participating in common actions on the site. They chose to have multiple closure reasons, to highlight the multiple types of questions they don't want asked on this site. If the intent was to support discussions, the whole site would have been built differently. This is also reflected in their constant rejection of requests for features, like accepting multiple answers, that would make for a less structured experience.

We're a strange experiment, in the far corners of the SE model. We're not a revenue center. They will never invest developer time in Worldbuilding specific features, especially if it would allow us to stray further from the SE model. I suspect that if we attempted to turn this site into a free-for-all without moderation they'd be more inclined to nuke the whole site rather than support something so far outside of what is promised by the Stack Exchange experience.

We can not reject the fundamentals of a Stack Exchange site and still be a Stack Exchange site. We'd loose what makes us distinct. If you want less structure and moderation there are better platforms out there. The creativity of the worldbuilding subreddit is phenomenal. If you want less structured worldbuilding Q&A you could give worldbuilding Quora a try. Given that our whole mandate is worldbuilding in the Stack Exchange model giving that up would be to reject our design mandate.

There are plenty of successful questions that fit well within our model. Most of the friction seems comes from people who are either ignorant of the model or choose to ignore it. This is why we close old questions, to reduce that friction. The more misalignment there is between people following the sprit and structure of this site, and people who are just looking for a place to post anything vaguely related to worldbuilding, the worse that friction is going to be.

The best we can do is moderation, and education. If inappropriate questions are quickly closed before receiving answers, the incentive to continue asking inappropriate questions is removed. If old questions are closed if they aren't suitable under current policy, then people will using them as an example of how to ask a well received question on this site. It seems harsh but anything else drives us away from what we promise in our tour,

We're a little bit different from other sites. Here's how:


I'm actually wondering why this question was voted down so harshly. We have a continuous shower of inappropriate questions that have to be fended off, so this is something that absolutely bears discussion.

No Popularity Contests

I looked into the idea of asking Stack Exchange to create a second site specifically for the kind of worldbuilding that most of the visitors seem to want to do. It would be awesome to have a brainstorming site that we could point people to when they posted their inappropriate questions.

The issue there is that Stack Exchange was designed to provide concrete answers. They want people to be able to go to a question and find AN answer. If you shift to a brainstorming model, then you drift off into speculative territory where the points system just becomes a popularity contest.

Popularity contests are 100% anathema to Stack Exchange. This is an essential hard line that they drew because, otherwise, their software engineering pages would be overrun by questions of camel case vs. snake case, where there is neither a clear answer nor a clear reason to be arguing.


Where does that leave us? Ideally, there should be somewhere else that we can send people when they want to throw out their bright ideas for brainstorming.


The problem there is that Reddit doesn't have a Q&A format. It's just people putting out "look at me, I'm so cool" posts that others can respond to. In truth, a good third of the inappropriate posts we see here fall into that category, but that doesn't manage the remainder that are looking for input or ideas.


Quora is a better option, but they have taken an unfortunate turn towards monetization. Their worldbuilding space is actually a curated spot where people pull in answers from across Quora that might be interesting to an audience, or attempt to write insightful articles. Also, they stuff advertising in every other line.

Anywhere else?

What does that leave us with? Where can we send these people to fulfill their need for serious, but less targeted, Q&A?

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the support. I didn't understand why my question got so many downvotes either. I think that SE could employ some additional customization options for its children sites that allow for more flexibility than the very strict "1 correct answer only" format that it currently uses. I believe this wouldn't only benefit World Building, but many other SE sites and the future of SE as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure it got downvotes because it was asked before, six years ago. It wasn't adequately answered then, either, because everyone was trying to establish their perspective as the correct one instead of solving the inherent problem. The landscape of the world outside of this forum has changed, though, so it bears revisiting. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 20:45

I would like to read where Stack Exchange has such stringent requirements. Not being snarky -- I just would like to see these rules and my 30 seconds of trying to find the origin of the "certain standards" claim has failed to find where they are written.

Because fierce enforcement of that idea is frankly why Arqade is such a useless substack. Ignoring that idea is why the SciFi stack is so lively.

Arqade doesn't let anyone ask about a video game they partially remembered, because it's not considered to be generally useful knowledge. Boring buzzkills. SciFi allows it, and consequently quite a lot of content is people asking and answering questions about partially remembered books, stories and movies. I don't know how useful it is but I find it entertaining and sometimes find new books or things to read just based on someone's half-remembered question and someone else linking a short story or book. Like, it's useful, if not necessarily in the Stack Overflow sense.

So, anecdotally, Arqade is strictly following the "certain standards" and it's a dull and nearly dead community where a lot of people ask extremely specific, uninteresting questions and often get few if any answers.

Worldbuilding is far livelier and more interesting and if ignoring the rules is how we got here, let's keep ignoring them.

Addendum for posterity: this excellent Stack Overflow blog entry. Particularly the "Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions". Stack Exchange recognizes that things can be opinions and still be valid. They recognize this enough that they made a programming stack just for opinion-based questions. That blog has an excellent description of what makes some opinion-based Q&A good, and, therefore, what defines a "bad" opinion based Q&A.

  • $\begingroup$ Start here: area51.stackexchange.com/faq $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean Hm, nothing I see there reads like a "stringent requirement". It seems more like friendly, helpful suggestions and ideas on how a good site can get started. Nothing at all about questions being "reusable". I wonder where people even got that idea from? $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, Now go here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/350157/… . You'll notice that the second rule on the list is "too opinion based." This relates to how the rating system works. People are supposed to upvote the correct answer, so it can rise to the top. If there is no actual correct answer, then that doesn't work. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean Mm, seems like apples and oranges to me. "What color should I paint my house" is opinion based. "What disease only effects the non-peasants" is an open-ended question but virtually all worldbuilding questions are, and there's no rule against "questions that could have more than one answer". Even the thing you linked appears to be the opinion/interpretation of one "Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog" and not official site policy. We vote on the answers we think are good, not necessarily just "the best" or "the only one that is correct". $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ (Even in something like Stack Overflow, where answers can definitely be right or wrong, it's still possible to have multiple right answers, with each getting upvotes. Generally, the top voted is the one that was spelled out the best by the answerer. Sometimes the technically best answer, or the one that applies to your similar-but-not-quite-the-same-as-the-OP situation is further down.) $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Was the non-peasant question closed? I certainly didn't vote to close it. It's entirely reasonable to close questions for which there is obviously no answer, or for which a proper answer would require a small book. The problem is that many of the people who are doing the voting vote to close a question because they, specifically, couldn't think of how to get to a concise answer. In a few cases, I've provided functional concise answers on that kind of question, just to provide an example. There is a lot of gray area. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean I'm with you on that. My approach is usually "try to find a way to answer a question". Like it could be worded better but I see what they're getting at. Or what they asked is too open, but I can answer something narrower that was probably what they really meant anyway. I'll prefer to try to answer. There are definitely others who appear to be trying to find a reason to close, and rules-lawyering until they can. ("The code is more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules." - Barbossa) The actual, posted meta site official rules are very friendly and open. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK, Arqade does allow identification questions but only with some (quite strict) requirements. It's M&TV and A&M that have banned them entirely (with varying degrees of controversy). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor Amusingly, that M&TV link about banning identification has the most downvotes I have ever personally seen on any Stack Exchange post. The first reply said something I think about here, too: the highest rep people got their rep by doing things that are now banned by high rep people. I wonder how much of that is true here, too. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Amen. I have had questions counter-questioned, answered incorrectly/off subject, or even downvoted and closed. To make it worse, they wouldn't let me delete my internet shame because "people took the time to answer it." I got two good answers on stuff. I just basically quit asking questions here. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 21:43

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